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Monday, 27 May 2013


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The other day I was proposing just to use the verb "to smurf" instead of some of the bloated jargon verbs used around the office: it seemed just as far removed from the actual meaning as many of the other words we were using. Then I found out that "to smurf" actually means something outside the cartoon: "To structure a deposit; to split a large financial transaction into smaller ones so as to avoid scrutiny."... Language is weird.

I like "making pictures".

I haven't figured out a way to beat "taking pictures", or even "making pictures" if one prefers that distinction, even though often the act of photography is just one of observing while one happens to have a camera.

Speaking of terms that won't catch on, a friend and I go out shooting together from time to time just for the exercise. We call it "stretching the photography muscle".

I'll settle for "making photos" (or pics). Not pretentious, and implies more of a workflow than the initial act of "taking" a photo.

I like to use "making photographs." It immediately suggests a conscious effort, and includes all parts of the art and craft, including pre, shooting, post, printmaking and framing.

It also echoes the more common usage "taking photographs" and even to lay people, connotes a more active process in making rather than taking. One is found; the other is made.

How about prosecution or execution?

Me I go out and take snapshots (Is it one or two words?) everyday. Photographically I'm just practicing.

Ain't words grand.

Speaking of pretentious terms, I always cringe when I see the word 'photog' for photographer – for some reason I find it utterly annoying.

Apropos the subject at hand, I would argue that 'photographing' is quite suitable, coined in 1839 and stems from the Greek meaning light-writing. That's a beautiful way to put it, the medium being silver or silicone.

As to your point about it not covering the editing and printing processes, do those arts not deserve to stand on their own terms? I see it in a similar vain as for writers, they are 'writing' even though their text is at a later stage subject to (hopefully rigorous!) editing and publishing, the same is true for photographers.

We can also examine this analogy in light of the term 'taking (or making) pictures'. Writers, like photographers, can go out in the world seeking inspiration, it being casual overhearing, taking a stroll with the notebook at hand or strenuous research at the library. Is that not part of the 'writing'? When a photographer is walking (or lurking!) with his weapon of choice (obviously chosen after countless hours of online research…) he is, I would argue, simultaneously taking in inspiration as well as taking (out) pictures. Does the term 'photographing' not entail that practice?

Cheers and sorry for the rambling,

Making Photographs?

I told someone I was "using optical image making as an analogue for perception and subsequently as a mnemonic prosthesis for constructing narratives" when they asked what I was doing at a college alumni event over the weekend.

My friend Jamie Livingston called it "Snapping Maps" as in "Snap your map?" when he wanted to photograph someone.

"Here's what I've been doing photographically lately: Just having fun."

Excellent! But, uh, I'd no idea you'd not been "just having fun" all along. You're keen to cite that you're just a casual photographer these days.

Interestingly, during a visit to DC a week ago I had a chance to get together with a friend who's working on a Guggenheim fellowship (photography) project. He remarked that he found the self-structuring nature of the commitment to be "liberating" and "fun".

To each his/her own, eh?

I often look at the links of the people who post on TOP. John Krill, who posted above, has a wonderful video at the top of his blog about the life of Wayne Miller, a photographer who worked with Captain Edward Steichen during the war and afterwards went on to assist with the very famous "Family of Man" exhibit. Wayne Miller died this year. Here is the link to the video: http://vimeo.com/14414088#

I always use "shooting".

Let's go shooting.
Did you shoot anything this weekend?
What do you want to shoot today?
Did you shoot anything worth keeping?

I never say "I have a shoot" though.
That sounds pretentious and I'm not a pro so I would feel silly using such a phrase.

Shooting also brings hunting to mind which is a very analogous activity to photography. In both cases, you hunt for material, point your weapon of choice, pull the trigger, and hopefully bring home something worth eating.

Out here, in the English-speaking world beyond America, of course, we practise our photography. Though we may, of course, have a photography practice, in which case, that would be where we practise.

I prefer to just take pictures, though.


Good verb. Not bland; efficient.

A while back I came across a little book on contemplative photography while wandering the gift shop of the quilt museum in Paducah (go figure?). It talks rather charmingly about the difference between "taking" a photograph and "receiving" one.
It recommends trying to think of an image as a gift rather than a trophy. As a news photographer this is not going to do much good while at work but on my own time it is kind of wonderful.
Today Mrs Plews and I took a nice aimless drive on some back roads in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Not a photo safari, just a nice drive and some talk.
When we came across this scene I just had to stop and accept the gift of a couple of frames.
Not a great image but a nice memory to have of a perfect afternoon.


Good for you Mike. 'Bout time you got out there (or in there) and did a little actual "Photography", whatever that means to you.

I'll always hold out a little shred of hope that you had taken my advice and were out exercising that lovely Chamonix view camera!

"Snapshot" is one word, but "every day" is two—not to be confused with "everyday", an adjective meaning "ordinary".

Another fan of "making pictures" here. "Making photographs" works for me too, but I prefer the less formal sounding version.

Mike, I can see how the person was offended. "Keep practicing" sounds very teacherly (as if that were a word.) This all comes back to the fact that when we communicate through Email or text messages, there is bound to be misunderstandings.

I don't have a better verb for making pictures, but despite the "work" part, I think what you were trying to express was: "keep up the good work."

People who have debates and arguments about words have physiological problems far deeper than words.

[Yes, we're complete idioms. --Mike]

I think it's OK to say "work" since I have never thought any endeavour entered into seriously had to be paid.

After all, Van Gogh hardly ever sold a painting in his lifetime.

Just because Cavendish was rich and therefore performed all his experiments as a hobby doesn't demean the "work" he did.

And I think describing Vivian Maier's photographs as a "body of work" is entirely appropriate.

I'm off at 2:00am tomorrow morning for three days of picture taking in Big Bend National Park. Can't wait to drive hundreds of miles to get there. All the miles within Texas I should add.

It is a world apart, completely outside the cell phone networks. The park lodge has no televisions or WIFI or network connections in the guest rooms. The rule is silence and minimal lights after dark. You can get WIFI in the hotel lobby if you absolutely have to have your internet fix.

It will be just me and my camera and the unspoiled desert environment. I love that place.

I think what bothers me so much about photography these days is that so many people seem to think it's a goal unto itself, rather than a by-product of more interesting things.

That's funny, when I do stuff with wood, I call it "doing woodworking". Maybe I should call it woodfunning.


Mrs. Jones: "My son is really going somewhere, he just graduated from law school."

Mrs. Smith: "Oh that's wonderful, where does he practice?"

Mrs. Jones: "He doesn't have to practice, that's why he went to law school."

There was an English Photography magasine, whose name now escapes me, which used to talk about 'lensmen' and 'lensing' for photographers and taking photographs. Ugghhh. I stopped buying it (long before the advent of the internet). Pretentious twaddle.

Strangely "photog" annoys me too Gunnar. I mean seriously, would one want to go photoging? Haha, actually I am starting to see some fun to be had at others expense...

"Even if it's raining where you are"...

Had a good laugh just now, seeing this comment. Here in Berkeley, CA it rains so little I crave the sound, and the ions. And it's raining well tonight despite forecasts to the contrary. Let it rain.

Some recents events in my life have had a similar effect in my photography. This post of eric Kim was really enlighten too:


I've realised I won't never be a great photographer. But I enjoy with a camera in my hands.
So I took the desition of take a break of my blog and simply enjoy the pleasure of taking photos when I want and without expectations.

Speaking of "photog" (ugh), in the same category is "tog" - horrible. Also, "glass" as a synonym for lenses - all these terms seem designed to make photography appear stylish yet do the opposite.

+1 for making pictures. I'm not a photographer, just a camera worker, and an amateur one.

I guess the enjoyment depends on what were your expectations at the beginning. In my case, I have a very clear idea: I never mix hobbies with actual work. My job has nothing to do with photography, and therefore my approach to photography was always to have fun with it.

I made a few pictures I appreciate a lot. Some of them have been my desktop picture in computers. Others have been sent to friends. And a couple of them were printed in big size and are decorating the walls at home.

I'm more than happy with that.

(Incidentally, the same happenned in the past with music: at some point, I could see the possibility of works related to music. But I love music too much to lose any fun, so I decided to avoid any possible income from music, to focus on pure enjoyment, and nothing else).

Gone shooting....photography is a hobby for me....a very serious one, to be sure, but a hobby nonetheless....I don't need to please anyone but myself.....

That said, there's a very nice shot of the Swedish Parliament building that is in the office of the manager of the local photo store....and yes, I know them well enough to know that they're not just being nice....its one of my favorite shots...

I'd call it 'my work', but when it becomes work, I stop....it isn't work....its more Zen than that....for me its about being in the present moment, seeing what is in front of me, and recording it....sounds kinda lame when I type it out, but language is an imperfect medium of communication....

Well, hm, yes!

I always feel inspired by this video of Jay Maisel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U7bnIYcvRM). Just shows how much you can achieve by having fun with a camera around your own neighbourhood.

I'm new here and just looking around for the most part. By profession, I'm an engineer and I'm still practicing. I've also been a musician most of my life and am still practicing. FWIW, I've been "making images" since I was about 13-years old (again, most of my life), although I've probably said "taking pictures" more often than anything else.

I've been using the term "making images" for about a year. I strive to make artful images a good part of the time, but sometimes I'm just taking snapshots. I have no pretense about being a good artist, but it is *my* approach to art and I believe art is an important aspect of every life. I'm not qualified to judge the quality of the art, but that's irrelevant. I don't need to make a living as an artist. :)

When I'm out roaming about (as I call my photographic excursions) I'm usually working on two things -- walking my dog (who's nearly always with me) and looking for the light. My Girl keeps me focused in the now and the light captures my eyes, draws me to it, and then I find a way to capture a part of what I see. The walks are always successful and now and again I make a decent capture. :)

This is great material. Thanks for posting your rumination.

I always cringe when I see the word 'photog' for photographer – for some reason I find it utterly annoying.

It could be worse. On an English forum I am a member of, 'tog' is used as a contracted form of photographer.

Even more annoying.

I think of my camera as somewhat of a compass. It seeks light, form, contrast. I like to look through the viewfinder and find what "it" sees. I was trained as a fine art painter. During the last 60 years art has kept changing, just like the rest of the world. The emphasis has shifted through view points, the roles of tools, techniques, attitudes, and ideas. All I know for sure, is that I am an experimenter. I take William Saroyan's ("The Human Comedy" ) words to heart: "The best philosophy is to open a can and if there is anything in it that's good to eat, eat it."
As a painter, I sometimes use my camera as a "sketchbook", It becomes a way of defining my space as I become aware of how it is structured, ie near-ground, background, connecting elements, progressions of contrast, tonal emphasis. (yeah, "pre-visualization" stuff). The sketchbook approach is an essential part of my painting process. After I make several 5x7 prints of the subject, I begin to make quick calligraphic ink drawings of the dominant elements of the photos. Those abstract drawings form the basis of my paintings. They are very different from the photos.
Occasionally, one or two of the photographs nudge me to develop them as photographs. I am not a "professional"…I do exhibit, but hardly ever does my work sell. Familiar story?

The great French photographer Eugene Atget had a sign over his door that read (in French, of course) simply "Documents for Artists."

I think that all you (generic "you") have to do is to go out and look, and then use a camera to record what you see. The camera is a save button for your mind's eye.

Och, you worry too much. The big problem with all these sort of things stems in my mind from attempts to pin photography down. You can't do it. It's like trying to pin down writing.

"Taking photographs" is perfectly fine from my point of view (in English) especially because these days that's all most people actually do

I think we need to coin a term for those millions of people that are constantly, constantly snapping pictures, but don't really know about, or care about the art and act of photography.

Snappers? Pixers? Time-Freezers?

The idea that I would refer to them as imagists or photographers is amusing, and slightly nauseous...

I think of it as "doing photography" or "making pictures." Which are not exactly the same thing.

Regarding practice and musicians, I do a certain amount of photography I think of as "practicing scales." Just as a musician has to practice scales and chords to be ready to perform, I have to keep up my technical and camera handling "chops" to be ready for those times when I want seriously to "make pictures."

Whilst 'photographing' is perfectly functional and very descriptive I think I see why you might feel it is too bland.

Traditional artists (painters, sculptors etc) often use painting and sculpting to refer to their work, however, as with everything not all people like the same term and some use "creating" instead (as in creating pieces of work/art/fun). I see no reason why creating – or making as previously mentioned – are not perfectly valid terms.

Thinking about this, another term I quite like is 'Exploring' from it's continued sense of learning and discovery, if you've stopped exploring there's a good chance you're stuck in a rut and need the proverbial kick. However, I can see that term being problematic for some in the same way practicing was.

It's right there in the title of your post. When asked how my time is spent since retiring from a long career that also involved substantial commuting, I usually reply as follows:

"The landscaping, house interior/exterior, cooking and cars still require lots of effort. When not attending to those, I enjoy doing my photography."

Bravo, Mike! Photography just for the fun of it -- welcome to my world!

While a lot of "serious" amateurs and "working" pros might benefit from just having fun once in a while, I on the other hand, would almost certainly become a better photographer with a bit more rigor in my "practice." You've certainly given me more than a few ideas of exercises to try over the years -- now all I have to do is get off my a** and try one or two of them!

We all come at it from different places, don't we? But when it comes to photography, as the young folks say, it's all good!


Honestly all of the stiff terms seem "stuffy"
My day job is designing rather high tech communication systems for schools, hospitals etc. When people ask what I do, I just say "I play with wires". With photography, "I play with cameras" Just seems to diffuse all that to what it really is, just farting around with things that I find interesting. Fortunately one of them pays the bills....

I like the British slang of "Happy Snappers" or making "happy snaps".

Mike, I'm glad you are having fun. It's good to have fun with a camera.
I talk about "going to take pictures" when my family asks me where I'm going, or what I'm doing. To myself, I have started to think of it as "making pictures." Maybe that is a subset of taken pictures that happens when I pick, or develop, or print.

I think I like using simple words to talk about what I do. Shooting is something I could do with a gun. Capture is something I could do with software, (e.g. capture a keypress to start this loop) or something I could do with a net or a cage.
Lately, I've been trying to be more clear (to myself) about my intentions, and my language. "Doing some photography" is pretty abstract, but I use it sometimes. All language is metaphorical, but I usually would rather be concrete (making pictures) over abstract (doing photography). I really don't like misleading metaphors (shooting), since that metaphor doesn't describe my state of mind when I do photography.

If that is a truthful metaphor for other people, I won't quibble. People have the right to describe their own behavior as they see it. Sometimes - not always - it can tell you a lot about their relationship to the world.


Taking photo is composing the score; printing/displaying/sharing/whatsapp/facebook/flickr/... is performance.

--Adapted for 2013 from a quote by a master.

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